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Supreme Court will determine same-sex foster parent rights

| Mar 19, 2020 | Child Custody

Since the U.S. Supreme Court ruled five years ago that same-sex marriages must be recognized in this country these couples had many of their rights recognized. But many same-sex family law questions remain. The Supreme Court recently decided to review whether an agency can refuse to place Foster children with same-sex couples because of their religious beliefs.

The appeal involves the City of Philadelphia’s decision to prevent Catholic Social Services from participating in the City’s foster parent program because CSS refuses to place children with potential parents who are same-sex couples. The City claimed that this policy violates its ordinance prohibiting discrimination and ended its contract with this faith-based provider.

CSS argued that the City’s decision violates it’s the First Amendment rights of religious expression and free speech. It sued the City in 2018. CSS lost its lawsuit in federal district court. The Third Circuit Court of Appeal also affirmed the district court’s ruling in April 2019. The Supreme Court will hear oral argument in October.

LGBTQ advocates argue that a Supreme Court ruling could further embed discrimination in the public welfare child welfare system. Eleven states currently have laws that allow state-license agencies to claim religious exemptions in the foster and adoption process. Early last year, the federal government granted a waiver to a ministry in South Carolina that permits it to deny services to same-sex or non-Christian couples and allowed it to continue as a foster care agency supported by the state.

Advocates also claim these laws and policies make the critical lack of available foster families even worse. There were almost 443,000 children in foster care in this country in 2017, according to the Department of Health and Human Services. Each year, approximately 50,000 children are adopted in the child welfare system. Another 20,000 children, however, become too old for placement with an adoptive family.

LGBTQ families have higher rates of foster and adoption. They are also more likely to adopt older, special needs and minority children.

A ruling in favor of CSS could mean that it could reject individuals trying to participate in government programs. Public organizations may be able to use public funds to stop LGBTQ individuals from receiving services.

Our attorneys can help LGBTQ couples deal with the family law complexities they face, such as with custody issues.